Opened 17 December 2013, Closed 22 March 2014 at the Trafalgar Studio 1 in London
A major revival of Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts in London adapted and directed by Richard Eyre and starring Lesley Manville.
Helene Alving has spent her life suspended in an emotional void after the death of her cruel but outwardly charming husband. She is determined to escape the ghosts of her past by telling her son, Oswald, the truth about his father. But on his return from his life as a painter in France, Oswald reveals how he has already inherited the legacy of Alving's dissolute life.
The cast features Lesley Manville as 'Helene Alving' with Jack Lowden as 'Oswald Alving', Brian McCardie as 'Jacob Engstrand', Charlene McKenna as 'Regina Engstrand' and Adam Kotz as 'Pastor Manders'. Directed by Richard Eyre with designs by Tim Hatley and lighting by Peter Mumford. This production transfers to London's West End following a critically acclaimed sold out run at the Almeida Theatre in North London.
"I feel like Usain Bolt. It's an Olympic part, an epic role. I love it, but there are nights I dread it, because I know how difficult the journey is going to be," says Lesley Manville who plays the central role of Mrs Alving. "[Richard Eyre] has made it very speakable, very modern, and it allows me and the other actors to go to these very big emotional places. Mrs Alving has had a desperately sad life, but she has a great sense of humour and she can laugh at herself. And that makes it bearable."
"The ghosts in Richard Eyre's vivid, forceful adaptation and scorching staging of Ibsen's fine tragedy are far from dead. They live on in the characters' bloodstreams: in the received ideas, customs and morals that smother them and in young Oswald's terminally toxic inherited syphilis... Past productions have piled the blame on Oswald's father. In a shattering moment in this one, Helene takes some responsibility for her terrible marriage for failing to bring 'sunshine into his life'. Only for her son (a tremendous Jack Lowden) to beg her, as he lies semi-paralysed by a syphilitic fit, to help him to die. But as a flaming dawn breaks - Peter Mumford's lighting is as dazzling as Tim Hatley's set design - there is a powerful sense of catharsis, that where there is sunshine, there can be no more ghosts. Unmissable." The Mail on Sunday
"As the saying goes, a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. If you want to know what it's like to be mugged by a liberal, on the other hand, you could do worse than see an Ibsen play - especially one as powerfully staged and beautifully acted as this new production by Richard Eyre at the Almeida... Lesley Manville plays Helene as a woman under immense strain with a subtleness and delicacy that are the more heart-wrenching; Jack Lowden's Oswald is believable and moving; and Charlene McKenna is a pert, strong-willed Regina, the most justified of all of them in her blazing moral indignation. Tim Hatley's misty, cobwebby set suggests a tantalising light beyond, outside, in the real world, if only the characters trapped in this elegant but gloomy interior could escape to it." The Sunday Times
"Sir Richard's adaptation is raw and unsparing, but it is also devastatingly true to the spirit of the original... Today theatre-goers are a lot less shockable, but, my goodness, Sir Richard's production still packs quite a punch... Lesley Manville gives the performance of her life as Helene Alving... The performances are quite simply breathtaking. Jack Lowden brings a strange, ethereal quality to Oswald, which makes him an unignorable stage presence... But it is ultimately Lesley Manville's night: her final moments on the stage, preparing to put her son out of his misery, are played with heart-rending intensity. Theatre seldom, if ever, comes greater than this." The Sunday Telegraph
"Richard Eyre's adaptation of Ibsen's Ghosts is striking in many regards - but its biggest impact derives from its pace. At 90 minutes, with no interval, it hurtles us towards the calamitous denouement with such relentless purpose you're left almost clutching your throat. Eyre's new translation harnesses a very direct power and some fruity language - which emphasise the timeless force of Ibsen's harrowing imagination and crushing condemnations... Jack Lowden, as Helene's 'prodigal' son Oswald, moves with utter conviction from a grasping vitality to desperate decay as he succumbs to the congenital syphilis that so viscerally represents the sins of the father. Even among all this despair, the sad predicament of illegitimate Regina (a feisty Charlene McKenna) is given room to resonate with its full tragedy - a measure of how much thought has gone into this powerfully moving production." The London Metro
Ghosts in London at the Trafalgar Studios opened on 17 December 2013 and closed on 22 March 2014.
Ghosts with Lesley Sharp and Iain Glen 2010
Previewed 11 February 2010, Opened 23 February 2010, Closed 27 March 2010 at the Duchess Theatre in London
A major revival of Ibsen's classic play Ghosts in London starring Lesley Sharp and Iain Glen, who also directs.
Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts reveals a compelling tale of love, betrayal and hypocrisy as ghosts from the past come back to haunt the living, making sure that the sins of the fathers are not forgotten. The cast for this production features Iain Glen as 'Pastor Manders' and Lesley Sharp as 'Mrs Alving' along with Harry Treadaway, Jessica Raine and Malcolm Storry. The production is directed by Iain Glen who makes his directorial debut with this production which is presented in a new version by Frank McGuinness.
"A new West End production of Ghosts may seem defiantly non-commercial fare but it is given a piercing and reverberating intensity here. Iain Glen, directing as well as acting in it, might have given himself more notes on his own wayward accent as the priggishly moral Pastor Manders but Lesley Sharp goes with hardly a pause for breath to give a performance of controlled distress as another troubled matriarch at the opposite end of the spectrum of anxiety, and Harry Treadaway charts the disintegration of her son with a wounding, gathering realisation of his plight." The Express On Sunday
"Staged in an exquisitely painted, light drenched drawing room on the bleak edge of some Norwegian fjord, the Scandinavian-chic decor is the only thing about the Alving family one could possibly envy. For all inhabiting this haunted house are truly blighted, thanks to the poisonous legacy of Mrs Alving's late husband. Mrs Alving has done all she can to make good her husband's 'mistakes'. She has used his ill-gotten gains to build an orphanage, which today is to be opened... Most painful of all, she sent her son to boarding school at the age of seven in order to protect him from his father's disgusting philandering. However, when Oswald returns home from abroad, it transpires that all her efforts have been in vain. Inherited syphilis is slowly killing him. No one can escape the sins of the father... These days, Ghosts is a pale image of the shocker it once was. If it has anything to say to today's audience - and I'm not convinced that it has enough to merit a revival - it's that secrets, lies, guilt and the burden of concealment can be terminally destructive... Frank McGuinness's rather overstated new adaptation makes heavy weather of the play's symbolism. The words 'filth' and 'filthy' are endlessly repeated, and no one means the relentless rain. No wonder one finishes up feeling vaguely contaminated and dreadfully depressed. Still, Lesley Sharp is on top form as Mrs Alving... Iain Glen also plays Pastor Manders as a vile, sanctimonious and hypocritical Scots Calvinist who makes one's skin crawl but wholly fails to explain why Mrs Alving might have once fallen in love with him. Without that to create some tension, the play falls apart." The Mail on Sunday
"This is not a performance that commands the attention as it should, not even with syphilis, incest and burnt down orphanages on offer. Directed by Iain Glen, who also plays Parson Manders - aka 'traditional morality and convention' - it manages to confirm the clichéd prejudice against Ibsen: he gives us nothing but Nordic angst, gloom and claustrophobia... in McGuinness's serviceable but unremarkable version." The Sunday Times
Ghosts in London at the Duchess Theatre previewed from 11 February 2010, opened on 23 February 2010 and closed on 27 March 2010 - was originally due to close 15 May 2010.
Ghosts with Francesca Annis and Anthony Andrews 2001
Previewed 28 March 2001, Opened 2 April 2001, Closed 14 July 2001 at the Noel Coward Theatre
Mrs Alving is making preparations for the opening of an orphanage - a memorial to her late husband. Her son Oswald, an artist, returns home for the celebrations. A saga of love, betrayal and hypocrisy gradually unfolds as ghosts from the past come back to haunt the living making sure the sins of the fathers are never forgiven in Ibsen's unforgettable social drama.
Henrik Ibsen's play is presented in a new version by Richard Harris. The cast features Francesca Annis as 'Mrs Alving' and Anthony Andrews as 'Pastor Manders' along with Martin Hutson as 'Oswald'. Directed by Robin Phillips with designs by Paul Farnsworth.
"The last time I saw Francesca Annis on stage, she was playing Gertrude to the Hamlet of Ralph Fiennes, an actor with whom she seems to have got on rather well. She returns now in Robin Phillips's powerful, if patchy, production of Ghosts, an Ibsen tragedy that also features an intense motherson relationship... The lovely Ms Annis offers a moving, subtle portrait of a troubled, unhappy woman who has learnt to survive by burying her desires... It's a pity that Anthony Andrews, as Manders, is more doleful Church of England vicar than forbiddingly righteous Norwegian pastor... Not a great Ghosts, then, but a satisfying one." The Independent
"With Francesca Annis as Mrs Alving and Anthony Andrews as Pastor Manders, the production now at the Comedy Theatre is perhaps inevitably a very sensual one. By the sudden stretching out of a hand, quickly withdrawn, from Annis; the muffled muttering of a 'Helen' from Andrews is the love between them exposed, a love interred beneath decades of fabricated respectability... The intense playing between Annis and Andrews means that Ibsen's sensational plot must fight for attention. Martin Hutson, as a rather bulky Oswald, seems slightly detached when discovering the cause of his disease but he comes into his own in the great climax as mother and son agonise over the future nightmare and their narrowing options... For once a classic play given a short West End run as a vehicle for two big stars justifies their time and the audience's money." The Financial Times
"Robin Phillips's compelling, impressive revival... Francesca Annis is at her finest as Mrs Alving in a performance which reveals the waste of a wonderful spirit who sacrificed everything - and squandered her life - to create an image of respectability to the outside world. The reality was very different, but to protect her son from being polluted by his father's philandering she sent him away at the age of seven. She repressed her own desires for the local pastor (Anthony Andrews is splendidly loathsome as the pious, prudish hypocrite) and endured years cut off from joy on the edge of a Norwegian fjord. Now the son has returned, and Mrs Alving must come to terms with the fact that the ghosts of the past can never be laid to rest. Chilling." The Mail on Sunday
Ghosts in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 28 March 2001, opened on 2 April 2001 and closed on 14 July 2001